Chinese Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait (ARATS) Chairman Chen Yunlin (陳雲林) is back home now, basking in the glow of another successful reconnaissance trip to Taiwan for his masters in Beijing.
Much was made of him venturing into central and southern Taiwan, with visits to Greater Kaohsiung, Chiayi and Yunlin County. However, given the security cordons that were thrown up wherever he went and his almost complete lack of contact yet again with non-Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) officials and supporters, one has to wonder just exactly what kind of impressions he is recounting to his comrades.
To see as much as he saw of the real Taiwan — from the windows of his Taiwan High Speed Rail carriages and motorcades — he could have stayed home and watched a National Geographic or Discovery Channel show about this country.
The director of the Kaohsiung Chamber of Industry said he hoped Chen’s visit would help the economic development of Greater Kaohsiung. Yet the mayor of that metropolis, the site of the nation’s largest port, was noticeable by her absence from any of the events in her city, especially the closed-door meeting between the ARATS delegation and area business leaders.
The director of the Kaohsiung Commerce and Trade Development Association said Greater Kaohsiung Mayor Chen Chu (陳菊) had not been invited to the meeting because of time constraints and the business nature of the get-together.
What is it about business — or economics — that he did not think Chen Chu would be interested in? Whether she would have wanted to meet Chen Yunlin is immaterial. Some business leaders who attended the meeting were among those who accused her ahead of November’s special municipality elections of not doing enough to promote the city’s economic development, yet they were more than willing to deny her even the possibility of involvement.
There was no one who met with the ARATS delegation who was not willing to puff them up, no one willing to voice discontent with the drive to bind Taiwan ever more tightly economically with China. Even Chen Yunlin’s visit to the Neihu Science Park in Taipei gave him a view of firms that all have massive investments in production facilities in China.
The only voices of discontent that he and his people might have heard were the scores of protesters that dogged their visit. The ARATS chief dismissed the scattered protests as a “misunderstanding.” How he could know that is a mystery, since the protesters were for the most part kept well out of hearing distance by meters of barbed wire at the Port of Kaohsiung and hundreds of police officers elsewhere.
The overwhelming police presence that surrounded Chen once again sent a disturbing message about the nature of our government’s connections with its public and its cozying up to Beijing.
Granted, the government is still smarting over the harassment of Chen’s deputy Zhang Mingqing (張銘清) during a visit to the Confucius Temple on Oct. 21, 2008, which led to Zhang taking a tumble — and to a Tainan city councilor and six others being convicted of “hindering personal freedom.” But what about the actions of the police hindering the personal freedom of the students, elderly pro-green supporters, DPP politicians and others to express their opinions of Chen Yunlin’s actions and activities? The right to hold dissenting viewpoints and the right to protest are hard-won democratic rights in this nation, something both Chinese visitors and the KMT would do well to observe.
A senior KMT official said the freedom to express opinions should be respected, but protesters should remain calm so the nation’s image would not be hurt. He is obviously oblivious to the harm done this nation when the only voices heard and images seen are those that toady to Beijing and its ambitions.
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